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An Equitable Society Means a Sustainable Earth: An Icelandic Case Study

In trivia, Iceland is known for its wacky Eurovision entries, thermal springs and its incredible greenery. In the sustainability world, however, Iceland is leading the way to the be the blueprint for not only a healthier earth but a more equitable society.

It’s a good day to be an Icelandic woman

Iceland has been at the forefront of women’s rights for over a half a decade. Notably, in October of 1975, 90% of the women in the country staged a strike from their duties. This included housework, childcare, day jobs and any other daily responsibilities they had and took the streets of Iceland’s capital Reykjavik. The result? A powerful display that left Icelandic society in freefall for the day, making the men finally see the uneven burden being placed on women. Since then, 24th of October has become known as Women’s Day Off and is celebrated as a commemoration of the hidden burden women hold.

Gender equality has been enshrined in law with the Act on Equal Status and Equal Rights of Women and Men that protects citizens from a myriad of discriminatory practices from pay gaps to misogyny. This has culminated in Iceland being viewed as one of the top three countries that uphold women’s peace and security in the world according to a 2021/2022 Princeton study. This clearly satisfies the UN’s Gender Equality goal from their 17 Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs). The atmosphere created by these policies places equality and shared responsibility to all citizens of the country.

Not only are Iceland leading the field in the area of women’s rights, but the country is blazing ahead in terms of sustainable energy. Thanks to millennia of tectonic plate action, Iceland is home to a plethora of waterfalls that can be harnessed to provide hydroelectric power. In fact, 70% of all the power generated in Iceland comes from that hydroelectric power. A further 25% of the power generated comes from geothermal power from Iceland’s famous thermal hotspots. This allows for more than 95% of Iceland’s power to come from sustainable and renewable energy sources. Satisfying the Affordable and Clean Energy Goal from the UN’s SDGs with ease. Due to this clean energy feat that Iceland has achieved, it is no wonder that it is placed first on Environmental Protection Index from Yale University, ranking above the likes of the Netherlands, France and Germany.

What the rest of the world has to learn

Green energy and gender equality may seem to be far removed ideas but underpinning both is an ideology of collective betterment of society. Iceland has these concepts (along with others from the UN’s SDGs) locked down and the high standard of living in the country is reflected by its top three spot in World Happiness Rankings. Iceland has specific geographic and cultural factors that have helped the country get to where they are now however, this should not deter the rest of the world from using Iceland as a place to measure themselves as strive towards. There are lessons to be learned from Iceland's achievements and the rest of the world better learn them quickly as time is running out.


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